On the road to Abilene

 

There’s a story of a family sitting on their porch in a small Texas town on a hot day with little intent on doing anything. I remember watching the video in my organizational behavior class during graduate school. They were all sweating, drinking lemonade, and I am pretty sure playing cards. After a silent moment, one of the family members suggested they go to a cafeteria (fine dining, I know) in Abilene a significant drive away. No one objected. They went. The film then showed them back at home, probably the same lemonade, and all of them still sweating. Soon they realized that no one wanted to go to Abilene in the first place, it was simply a suggestion, but in order to avoid making anyone feel bad, they went.

Ever since viewing that film, I always look for the times in my life when I am “on the road to Abilene”. Here’s a good example, which happens quite regularly in our home. This actually just happened again on Saturday night. I got on my computer in our bedroom to check a few blogs I follow regularly. I had decided I wanted to just be on for a few minutes and then my wife and I would watch a show together. She started to read a book, and I kept consuming information, which is something a lot of us would be considered pros. After an hour, I realized we just showed up in Abilene. I am sure neither one of us wanted to spend that hour that way, but we did. I was in the driver’s seat. I’ve learned that my wife doesn’t interrupt me when I am on the computer, and she shouldn’t have to ask me to get off the laptop. It is my decision. I decide where our “car” is driving, and when we will arrive there. No offense, but Abilene doesn’t sound like more fun than watching an episode of our favorite TV show (hopefully they never stage an episode in Abilene).

Looking back, a number of questions come into my mind:

  • ·         Was reading those blogs how I really wanted to spend my Saturday night? With my new job, I am gone 12-13 hours a day, and do not have the time I had while I was in school to be with the wife and kids. I was definitely on my way to Abilene
  • ·         Who was I putting first? My wife was sitting next to me and instead I was learning about someone/something probably thousands of miles away from me. The relationship with my wife and children should come first.

We need to regularly assess how we are spending our time. Are our actions lining up with our beliefs? If you asked me Saturday night what matters most to me, I would have said my wife, but my actions were obvious. My wife was second place to something of little to no significance.

If we all decided to act in harmony with our beliefs, I think all of us would be more productive and provide more value to those around us than we currently do.

My plan this week is to put my money where my mouth is and act in a way that shows what my priorities really are.

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Consumption vs Creation

Go to Wikipedia…see how long you can stay on there…ok don’t! I was kidding, but I think we all get the point. Even on one website you would spend centuries (literally) trying to read everything on there. So that brings up the question,

How much time do we spend consuming information daily?

Some information is necessary whether for work, school, being a better parent, etc., but do we need to spend as much time as we do consuming. As you may remember I gave up facebook a while back, and to be honest, I don’t miss reading mindless updates. I do miss seeing some pictures of family members, but now I live close to those family members, so it isn’t such a big deal. I now keep in better touch with those I care about through other mediums; more personal mediums.

The opposite of consumption is creation. Here are a few ways of creating:

  • Writing
  • Painting
  • Playing an instrument or singing
  • Playing with your children
  • Cooking

There are many more examples of creating. What I have realized is simple.

 I am happier when my time creating is greater than my time consuming.

I think we should all try to spend more time creating. Take 5 minutes today to create. Write down your thoughts, pick up your old instrument, toss you kids in the air a few times. Then tomorrow take some more time. Creativity enlivens our souls and brings joy to our hearts.